Introduction: Gender and ICTs for development: setting the context Helen Hambly Odame
- The effect of ICT on women’s enterprise creation: a practical example from China Li Guihuan
- E-business piloting and readiness for rural women weavers in Bhutan: lessons learned Minori Terada
- Fishers and radios: a case study of Radio Ada in Ghana Blythe McKay
- Development through radio: a case study from Sierra Leone Mercy Wambui
- Gender, ICTs and health in the Caribbean Nancy Muturi
Around the world new information and communication technologies (ICTs) have changed the lives of individuals, organizations and indeed, entire nations. No country and few communities are being left untouched by the ‘information society’ and, given the state of recent inter-governmental and multi-stakeholder policy debates, there is still a long way to go before civil rights are entrenched in this new society. This book is a collection of case studies about women and their communities in developing countries and how they have been influenced by ICTs. As this chapter and the following cases explain, ICTs and policies to encourage their development can have profound implications for women and men in terms of employment, education, health, environmental sustainability and community development. Policy is needed to ensure that investment in ICTs contributes to more equitable and sustainable development as these technologies are neither gender-neutral nor irrelevant to the lives of resource poor women.
Women want information and to engage in communication that will improve their livelihoods and help them to achieve their human rights. This is a formidable challenge facing all societies in today’s world, and especially developing countries. Due to systemic gender biases in ICTs and their applications, women are far more likely than men to experience discrimination in the information society. Women are not giving up on ICTs. On the contrary, even resource-poor and non-literate women and their organizations are aware of the power of information technologies and communication processes and, if given the opportunity to do so, will use them to advance their basic needs and strategic interests.
This book is a contribution to the field of gender and ICTs for development and is unique for two reasons. First, the collection of papers in this volume builds on a wider initiative of the Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in the Netherlands to compile state-ofthe-art knowledge on Gender, Society and Development. Knowledge that informs policy and advocacy is critical to overcoming poverty which is directly linked to economic and social justice for all. At an alarming rate, women, relative to men, are experiencing higher rates of hunger and malnutrition, illiteracy, overwork and sexual violence with direct impacts on children, the sick and the elderly under their care (Kerr et al 2004).
ICTs are building new channels for social awareness, mobilizing resources for resource-poor women and networking women as well as men who are supportive of human rights goals. Therefore, a second motive for this book is the need to document new and emerging case studies in the field of gender, ICTs and development. In-depth case studies offer insights into the implementation of relevant policies and programmes. Such documentation also informs the theoretical foundations on which analysis of gender, ICTs and development rest.
The scope of the ICTs addressed in this introductory paper and in those that follow, as well as in the annotated bibliography, include an array of technological products and processes that store unprecedented amounts of information and communicate rapidly and across vast distances. Microelectronics, computer hardware, and software, telecommunications and opto-electronics (e.g. semi-conductors and fibreoptics) are encompassed by the term ICTs. There are satellites, mobile telephones, wireless local loops and also, a range of applications such as internet, email, distance or open learning, teleworking, digital radio and video. With wireless technology, ICTs can be accessed almost anywhere but usually physical access to ICTs occurs in public spaces such as workplaces, libraries, schools, community information centres referred to as telecentres, privately owned cyber-cafes and to a lesser extent, in the context of developing countries, from private homes. Gender analysis of ICTs suggests that the existence of ICTs in public spaces does not entail access for all.
This introductory paper is an overview of the context of gender, ICTs and development in order to situate the five case studies and resources featured in this book. It identifies relevant past and present issues and seeks to examine the extent to which ICTs can contribute towards gender equity in development.